Bill Named in Honor of Nikki Kellenyi; Would Use DOT Signage to Help Promote Awareness of Dangers of Texting While Driving & Distracted Driving
(TRENTON) — Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Assembly Budget Committee Chair Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty (D-Gloucester) issued a multimedia package Wednesday on their legislation to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and specifically, texting while driving.
The bill (A-3873) is named “Nikki’s Law,” after Nikki Kellenyi, an 18-year old National Honor Society for Business student and champion equestrian from Washington Township, Gloucester County, who tragically died in an automobile accident in 2012 as a result of what police believe to be inattentiveness on the part of the driver of the vehicle Nikki was in.
“Nikki’s Law” would require the state Department of Transportation (DOT), in consultation with the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, to erect appropriate signage and use variable message signs, in order to help inform motorists that text messaging, emailing and general use of cell phones while driving is prohibited under state law.
The multimedia package consists of a video of the sponsors discussing the legislation and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of comments from the Assemblymen is appended below:
Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty (D-Gloucester), a Washington Township resident:
“You see, Nikki was an 18-year-old high school student in my hometown of Washington Township in Gloucester County. I know many of the children that knew her; that went to school with her. She was bright, she was beautiful, she was talented. In short, she was the all-American girl, looking forward to going to her senior prom the next week and attending Rider College in the fall.
“Nikki’s death shook our community quite a bit. Over 4,000 members of our community came out to her funeral, and last week, there was another vigil — over 500 people showed up to remember the night of her death. Nikki was buried in the prom dress she never got to wear, holding the prom ticket she never got to use.
“Her death reminds us of the danger of inattentive driving and it reminds us of the need to continue to educate the public throughout our state and throughout the country to put down the phones, put down the distractions and pay attention.”
Assembly Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee Chair:
“‘Nikki’s Law’ is really an educational bill that reminds drivers that their focus should be on the road and not any other distractions, in particular, the distraction that everybody is concerned about these days is — more than cell phone use — texting. We have to remember though, that driving a car is a very serious business and we’ve seen tragic consequences. We’ve seen Nikki Kellenyi, who the bill is named after, killed in a car crash that apparently was from distracted driving. We want to make sure there are no more Nikki Kellenyi accidents that take away a bright, vivacious young lady who had so much promise ahead of her life.”
Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), Assembly Budget Committee Chair:
“Well, I think it’s important for us to put signs to educate the people that are driving the importance of not texting while you’re driving. There’s studies that show that while you’re texting, it’s 23 times more risk that you can get into an accident. And educate the drivers, because we get a lot of out of state drivers. We’re a corridor state that a lot of drivers from other states travel through here and we want to make sure that they’re aware of our laws.”
“So, this is an educational bill. This is not about looking to assess a penalty, you know, about looking to assess motor vehicle points. This is about reminding drivers of their responsibility to pay attention to the road; to save that ancillary activity of texting or looking at your email or checking your cell phone.
“Save it for when the car’s stopped. Save it for a time when you can get out and you don’t have to worry about how fast you’re going or whether there’s traffic cutting in front of you or whether there’s somebody stopped unexpectedly. Those are all things that can happen, and if you take your eyes off the road, for even a second, tragic consequences can envelop.”